Thursday, December 13, 2007

Where are your DARE dollars going?

One of the best programs aimed at preventing young people from falling into the trap of drug abuse is DARE or Drug Abuse Resistance Education.

Police departments and schools all over the United States participate in DARE programs.

Unfortunately, DARE is being used by some people primarily to line their own pockets.

Montgomery County Sheriff John P. Durante has some advice for anyone who wants to support the DARE program: Give locally.

Durante is helping spread the word about a growing problem. People not connected with local DARE programs are setting up tables or stands outside retail establishments to solicit money or sell merchandise.

These stands sell DARE T-shirts and other DARE items as well as coupon books, Durante told reporter Margaret Gibbons. One such solicitation was set up Plymouth, Montgomery County.

Law enforcement officials discovered that the stand was being operated by a profit-making marketing agency that earmarks a "portion" of its profits for the national nonprofit DARE America organization.

"Portion" is the key word here. The company gives DARE America 50 cents for each $25 coupon book sold, Durante told Gibbons.

There is nothing illegal about the sale of the merchandise or coupon book, Gibbons reports, but no local DARE program receives proceeds from these sales.

In addition, Durante told Gibbons that these stands hurt local DARE fundraising programs.

"We work hard to raise the money our programs need to operate," Durante told Gibbons. "These vendors only make our job that much more difficult as people who purchase the items from them feel they have already contributed to DARE."

Gibbons tracked down James McGivney, regional director for DARE America, who acknowledged that local DARE programs do not benefit directly from the sales proceeds. But they do benefit indirectly, McGivney told Gibbons.

DARE America, which also is a nonprofit charitable organization, provides free training for DARE officers, McGivney told Gibbons. At the completion of that training, these officers are provided with free training kits that include curriculum and educational materials such as videos, he added.

"All of this costs money and, like other charities, we could not raise sufficient funds through traditional fundraising," McGivney told Gibbons.

Durante told Gibbons he and other law enforcement officers are "appalled" that private vendors are making a profit on the program that educates children about the dangers of drug use.

The sheriff recommends that people wanting to contribute to DARE programs in their area call their local police departments to find out how they can contribute to local programs.

That is the lesson here for everyone. Too many people set up so-called "charities" that return pennies on the dollar to worthwhile organizations.

So next time you see a stand outside a store or at the mall, make sure you know where your money is going. Better yet, drop a few bucks into The Salvation Army kettle.

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